Author: Jilly Cooper
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (re read)
Janna Curtis is the recently appointed headteacher of Larkminister Comp, a failing school where roughly 6% of students achieve The Magic Five (5 A*-C grades in GCSE). Janna is young and determined to make a success of the school and inspire the students to achieve their goals, even though the vast majority of them have little support from home and are living in poverty, so school is hardly top of their list of priorities. Unfortunately the Local Authority are keen to see Janna and Larks fail and throw many obstacles in her way. But Janna has a saviour in the form of Hengist Brett-Taylor, the head of the local private school, Bagley Hall. Hengist is charismatic and willing to help Janna and offer her students opportunities they could only have imagined. Wicked explores the lives of those in the two schools and those connected to the schools, whether as parents, Govenors or council members, with Cooper’s usual charming and witty flair.
It’s no secret to those who often read my blog that I love Jilly Cooper and I mean LOVE! Ever since I was a teenager I have devoured her novels time and time again so I know that whenever I read one I will be swept up in the lives of the glamorous and just have the chance to escape from reality. Wicked is one of the few Jilly Cooper novels that have been published since I discovered her writing so I can remember pre ordering the hardback copy of the book and just adoring it. It’s the familiarity of the whole world she writes about; I know I will love it so it is the perfect read for me. I like Wicked because it moves away from the world of horses to the world of schools, something I know a little bit about. I completely relate to the hardships and stress that the teachers in the state section experience throughout the novel and some of the funny anecdotes about school life, although I think there is a little bit too much under age sex in the novel to make it 100% believable, but then I try not to listen to anything of that kind of school gossip so maybe I’m being naive.
Although Wicked introduces many, many new characters there are some old favourites, such as Rupert Campbell-Black, his family and Dame Hermione and her tearaway son, Cosmo. Rupert is goaded into taking GCSE English and as an English teacher I liked seeing what books he was studying and as always, any novel that mentions other books makes me keen to read more. I always like this aspect of Cooper’s writing as she makes many asides to literature throughout all of her books. I’m looking forward to rereading Jump next as I have only read this once, when it was first released. I am also eagerly awaiting her next novel.